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Guy Rickards
Gramophone, August 2009

Playing of finesse…The Lutoslawski works are spread right across his mature career, Recitativo e Arioso dating from 1951, the Partita (in three sections, fast-slow-fast separated by two ad libitum passages) from 1984 and Subito from 1992. Daskalakis and Yampolsky provide fine accounts, as attuned to the early tonal manner of Recitativo e Arioso as Partita’s spikier idiom—Subito’s slightly softened late style still makes a vibrant, surprisingly virile miniature. The quirky Janáček comes over very nicely in this performance, moulding the whole convincingly structurally where others emphasise its episodic nature…and the additional coupling of Myths makes a splendid bonus…Fine sound…with the duos nicely balanced.

Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, July 2009

What a gorgeous tone Daskalakis has!—smoothness, personality, variety, and exceptional control of the bow, all with a depth of emotion that suits the pieces well. Yampolsky is a perfect match, eating these difficult piano parts for dessert. The balance and communication between them is perfect. There’s not a dull or poorly played moment in this program.

Lutoslawski’s Recitative and Arioso is a beautiful, thoughtful piece. Subito is, according to the liner notes, aleatoric but written in traditional notation. Lutoslawski is one of the few to take aleatoric processes and make them effectively and logically serve the music. There are some stunning moments here, and the piece is virtuosic and intelligent.

The one-movement, 15-minute Partita includes beauty of form and technique and flatters the intellect that conceived it. The repeated notes give the first part intensity and integrity. Daskalakis again shows off her exceptional control of the dynamics, though she sounds like she’s straining a few times here—unlike in the other works. The piece is more abstract than its companions, partly because it has the time and space to be so.

There are three main sections with aleatoric bridges between them. It’s a very serious piece, but Lutoslawski has a knack for making difficult styles appealing and viscerally understandable. Szymanowski’s Myths is influenced by impressionist writing, but has a little more harmonic bite than Debussy, for instance. It leans toward being too programmatic, but it’s still of good quality. ‘The Fountains of Arethusa’ sounds watery without sounding like anybody else’s water music, which is no mean feat. ‘Narcissus’ conveys the subject’s pining and ardor for himself frighteningly well. In ‘Dryads and Pan’ the violin gives a very convincing impression of panpipes; Zamfir would be proud. Daskalakis’s superb flautando tone is put to good use here. Why these pieces aren’t played more is beyond me, and the same could be said for Szymanowski’s music in general. They’re virtuosic, well-written, stunning, and captivating.

The Janacek Sonata was written in 1914 and 1915, about 10 years after Jenůfa’s premiere. His music is nearly always rhythmically and harmonically interesting and dramatic but unforced. There is a kinship with the Lutosławski, especially in the Scherzo, with the use of sudden texture changes to create contrast and drama. The ending, with its last few wisps of sound, is one of the most amazing things I’ve heard in ages. What a treat for the ears this album is!

Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International, April 2009

A co-production of Deutschlandradio Kultur and Görne Akustik, these recordings are of a very high standard. The piano is a fraction too low in the mix when compared to the violin in my view, but both instruments have plenty of depth and resonance and this is little more than an observation, and only really creeps in as an issue during the impressionistic mystique of the three Myths. Lutosławski’s Partita is the better known of his works out of this programme, although is now more commonly found in the later version with orchestra commissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter. It is given a strong performance here, with the dialogue between the instruments conjoining and drifting apart in emphatic style…Ariadne Daskalakis packs plenty of emotion into the playing, both latent and more overtly exposed, and Miri Yampolsky’s strong contribution ensures that this is more like a double solo than violin with accompaniment, which is the way it should be.

Lutosławski’s other two works here start with the earlier Recitativo e arioso, which precedes the composer’s move into the ‘controlled aleatoric’ techniques of his more famous scores, and is described in Ariadne Daskalakis’ booklet notes as ‘a melancholic, masterful miniature.’ This again is expressed with full character by both players, and the result is a work greater than the sum of its relatively brief duration. Subito was one of Lutosławski’s last compositions, and is another compressed and intense musical experience. The explosive material really allows both players to display their admirable technique, and bearing in mind the late date of this work I was reminded of that Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Szymanowski’s Myths is something of a staple of the violin/piano repertoire, and there is some stiff competition around if this is the work which attracts you to this disc…There is plenty of colour and contrast here, and I warm to the polish in the playing and dynamic drama and tensions between passion and restraint, songful lyricism, playfulness and fervour.

The Violin Sonata by Leos Janáček is one of my favourites in this medium, and not without its star proponents out on CD. Ariadne Daskalakis clearly understands and has thought carefully about Janáček’s style. It comes out not only in her playing, but is also referred to at some length in her booklet notes. “Speech melody”, reflecting the expressive potential, the rhythms and intonation of the Czech language as he heard it spoken around him, became an important element in his approach to instrumental writing as well as in the operas. This is not to say that the Violin Sonata is not without its lyrical melodies, and the second movement has the name Ballada, inviting a song-like interpretation which both players bring off very well here, once again not over-egging a pudding which can become stodgy if allowed to fester in sentimental wallowing. From pub scene to ardent aria, this is a fine performance throughout, and one which exemplifies Janáček’s quirky but compelling idiom to the full.

At bargain price this is not a recital to be missed, and Naxos Lutosławski completists should certainly not go without. If you already have your Szymanowski/Janáček favourites then you might not feel this to be an essential purchase. While seasoned collectors may expect merely to be pleasantly surprised, newcomers need fear no lack in quality, either in performance or production, and can count on having struck chamber-music gold.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2009

Despite the disc’s title ‘Lutosławski: Complete Music for Violin and Piano’, this is all about the great violin works from Szymanowski and Janáček. Lutosławski composed precious little for the instrument, a Partita being the only work of significance, the Recitativo e arioso and Subito being little more than shavings from the mastercraftsman’s bench. The four linked parts of the Partita, a work commissioned by Pinchas Zuckerman, opens in the composers high-impact atonality but slowly softens into lyrical passages, the final section almost tonal and passionate in its intensity, and mirrors the music of his compatriot Karol Szymanowski. He, by comparison, had been more generous in the quantity of works for the instrument, Myths among the 20th century masterworks. In three contrasting movements it takes influences from French Impressionists with shimmering washes of sound and pure ecstasy that verges on the erotic. The finale Dryads and Pan is full of vivacity, the piano, that earlier provided the backdrop, now taking the major part in an animated conversation. Janáček’s Sonata was finished late in life, and reflects the mental turbulence of love outside of marriage. The American violinist, Ariadne Daskalakis, is a player of impeccable technique, easily coping with the many challenges. She comes into much competition in Szymanowski’s Myths—this being my third version for review in as many months—and an abundance of Janáček Sonata recordings. My personal taste is for a totally impassioned Myths, Miriam Kramer on Naxos one of many with this approach [8.557748], and I prefer the many abrupt changes of mood in the Janáček to be more razor-sharp than here. But if the program attracts, and with the fine pianist, Miri Yampolsky, you will not be disappointed.

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